NEWTON, NJ—During the town council meeting on Wednesday, May 27, Police Chief Michael Richards recognized three officers for their outstanding work in the department.
Detective Thomas Muller was the first officer presented with a citation bar and a certificate. The most notable investigation that he took lead on was the 2010 kidnapping case of Newton businessman Jeff Muller.
Det. Muller was the first officer on site and stayed on the case as a lead detective until the victim was located in the early morning in Missouri. “I could tell that he was locked-in and fully committed to this case,” said Chief Richards.
He flew to Missouri and stayed there for a week, working with other agencies to solve the case. Criminal charges were issued to all those who were involved in the kidnapping and Det. Muller’s name is listed as the complainant for all of the five defendants.
“It is important to note that work did not cease on this case in 2010, in fact it went on for five years and is still ongoing, as preparations begin to try the last defendant. Four out of the five defendants have either been found guilty by a jury or have pleaded guilty,” said Chief Richards.
Det. Muller has been working on multiple investigations over the past five years including some involving drug distributors, sexual abuse cases,a nd even house fires that resulted in fatalities.
For this and much more, Det. Muller was awarded the Exceptional Duty Award for “his high standard of motivation and professionalism shown through his attitude and job performance as evidenced by his lead role in several major investigations”, stated Chief Richards.
Sgt. Frank Philhower and Det. Sgt. Dean Coppolella were the next officers who were recognized. These two officers had to make the decision to use deadly force when arresting a subject.
The 39 year-old registered sex-offender, who had violated his parole and did not want to go back to jail, threatened to hurt the officers when they came to arrest him. He was in possession of a razor knife and was cutting himself.
“He was pleading with officers to kill him because he did not want to go back to jail. These officers took the lead role in containing the scene and communicating with the subject. The confrontation took 45 minutes, until the subject lost his balance in the small room and the officers were able to tackle him and arrest him”, said Chief Richards.
He was taken into custody, but the officers were covered in the blood of the subject. Sgt. Frank Philhower suffered an injury to his right hand during the arrest. In the end everyone ended up safe.
Sgt. Frank Philhower and Det. Sgt. Dean Coppolella were presented with the Medal of Honor award for “their outstanding act in the line of duty, at imminent personal hazard of life, and with full knowledge of the risk involved”, stated Chief Richards.
Det. Sgt. Dean Coppolella personally thanked Sgt. Frank Philhower. “I was only on the force for about five months at that point and I was used to wearing bullet proof vests and such and so I just wanted to thank Sgt. Frank Philhower for taking the lead and recognizing that I was vulnerable. He asked for a body shield and took the lead during the arrest,” said Det. Sgt. Coppolella.
Police Chief Mike Richards, members of the Newton Town Council, Town Manager Thomas S. Russo, Jr. and friends and family of the officers recognized, expressed their pride in the great work that the officers do every day. While some might think that when an officer puts themselves into the line of duty, they are just doing their job, some officers go above and beyond the expectations. For that, Newton Police Department acknowledges and recognizes their outstanding achievements.